Nigeria is "at war" with Boko Haram: Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka

Fri Nov 9, 2012 2:39pm EST
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By Joe Brock

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria is "at war" with Islamist sect Boko Haram and should not negotiate with its leaders who are "mass murderers", Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka said on Friday.

President Goodluck Jonathan said earlier this year his government was open to dialogue with the sect, whose insurgency has killed an estimated 2,800 people since 2009.

The sect is styled on the Afghan Taliban and while it usually targets security and government officials, it has also struck churches, mosques and universities, becoming the biggest security threat in Africa's top oil producer.

"Don't talk to mass murderers. You are not obliged to talk to those who made the killing of innocent people their philosophy," Soyinka told reporters at a conference in Lagos.

"This is a security issue. It becomes a question of who goes down: is it the community? Is it society? is it the nation? Or is it a bunch of killers who are totally beyond control?"

Soyinka, 78, who sports a distinctive white Afro hairstyle, is a playwright and one of Africa's leading intellectuals. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986.

He said the violence in the north of Nigeria was the fault of religious "extremists" who had "brainwashed" youths who were now out of control. He also blamed the government for "abysmal" leadership, which he said had left vulnerable youths in poverty.

A purported spokesman for Boko Haram told reporters in the sect's stronghold in Maiduguri, in the northeast, it would be willing to talk if its members were released from prison and other conditions were met.   Continued...

Author Wole Soyinka, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, gestures during an interview in Lagos September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye